As of 2019, there were 57 million freelancers in the U.S., making up what is known as the “gig economy”. Thanks to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American unemployment rate peaked this year at over 14%. As of August 2020, 13.55 million people were still without a job.
So, it’s no wonder so many people are now turning to the gig economy for the first time, and putting their skills to use as a freelancer. Technology has made it possible to work from almost anywhere in the world and do a variety of tasks. If you have a specific skill or talent, chances are someone is looking for it!
There are many benefits to being a freelancer. You are your own boss, so you can be as flexible as you’d like, take on the clients you want, and set your own schedule. Of course, there are also potential drawbacks. When you’re just getting started, you have to think of yourself as a brand new business or brand. Like any other startup company, you will have some roadblocks to overcome, and there can be quite a bit of stress involved.
Because there are so many people in the gig economy, your competition is already stiff.
It’s important to learn a few marketing basics before embarking on a freelance career, so you can advertise your services and stick out from your competition.
But, in order to be truly successful, you should also strive to be as organized as possible. Freelancers work for many different clients at once and have multiple jobs to work on in a short period of time, too. Staying organized is a necessity.
So, how can you do it? How can you be organized as a freelancer and reduce the stress that can sometimes come with this type of career?
1. Keep a Schedule and Routine Every Day
One of the biggest mistakes freelancers make is believing they can work whenever they want. While that is technically true, you will quickly find that it’s overwhelming to pick and choose different hours each day.
In doing so, your schedule will end up being so erratic that you may not have time to do other things, and you’ll have a poor work-life balance.
There is comfort in routine. So, try to develop one for yourself each day. Get up at the same time, go through whatever morning rituals help to motivate you, including:
- Eating breakfast
- Taking a shower
Then, get to work! Having designated work hours throughout the day will help you to stay focused, and it will allow you to preserve a proper work-life balance. You won’t feel as flustered or unorganized, because you’ll know exactly what you need to get done on a daily basis.
2. Have a Designated Work Space
When you’re working from home, it’s far too easy to set up your work station in the living room, in front of the television, or even in your bedroom. While it’s not impossible to get work done in those places, it can be extremely distracting.
Plus, if you have more than one client or job at once, not having a designated office space can make it easy to lose track of things. You run the risk of missing deadlines or losing important information.
You don’t necessarily need to have a large space within your home to set up shop. Even a corner of a room will work, as long as there are minimal distractions. Have a desk or table, a chair, and anything else you might need to complete your work.
When you have your own space specifically dedicated to your job, you can keep all of your files and paperwork there, as well, so everything is always exactly where you need it. Plus, with fewer distractions, you’re more likely to get your work done faster and more efficiently.
3. Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
An easy way to get overwhelmed and unorganized is by taking on too many clients/jobs all at once. It can be tempting to say “yes” to every client that is interested in working with you. That’s especially true when you’re just starting out and trying to build up a steady client base.
But, if you bog yourself down with too much work, the quality of that work will suffer. You will also run the risk of experiencing burnout, which can cause:
- High blood pressure
- Anger or irritability
So, while you might be seeing dollar signs in your eyes at the prospect of working with many different clients at once, make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew. It’s better to work with a few solid clients and make sure you’re turning in quality work, rather than getting buried behind a dozen jobs you’ll have to rush through.
4. Don’t Let Your Emails Sit There
Check your email inbox right now. How many unread messages are there? Even if those messages are mostly SPAM, a full inbox can make you feel stressed, and even anxious.
Having a clear inbox, on the other hand, can help you to feel accomplished and organized. You have several options when it comes to checking your emails effectively. You can either read them and respond accordingly as they come in throughout the day. Or, you can set aside two times during each workday to go over your emails and respond to them. By dedicating just a little bit of time to clearing out your inbox, it won’t become clogged with dozens of messages.
Additionally, you’ll reduce your risk of missing something important from a client, because it will be less likely to get lost in the mix of everything else.
5. Send Invoices in a Timely Matter
Obviously, if you’re doing a job you want to get paid for it. But, it’s important to remain as professional as possible when you’re sending out invoices to clients. The last thing you want to do is forget to send something, or forget whether a client paid you for a job or not.
So, staying on top of your invoices and payments is crucial. Thankfully, there are tools you can use to make keeping your invoices organized easier. The Invoice2go mobile app, for example, is an invoice simple app that allows you to carry around your office on your phone, so you always have it in the palm of your hand.
Apps and programs like these allow you to instantly create and send invoices and keep track of which clients have paid and which ones still owe you for your work. Your clients will appreciate getting their invoice on time, and they will be more likely to pay you quickly when your invoice looks professional and laid out neatly. Having all of your invoices in one convenient location will also make it easier to review your income at the end of each year and keep everything organized for tax purposes. You’ll never have to scramble through your emails for invoices and payments again!
6. Find Time for Yourself
While freelancing does give you more flexibility, far too many contractors find themselves working more than they should. Again, it can be tempting to take on a lot of work in order to make more money.
But, it’s incredibly important to strike a healthy work-life balance, even if you’re working from home.
If you work all the time, not only will you become tired but you may grow to resent your job. You may start to lose your motivation, which will cause your work to suffer. You will become distracted faster, and it will feel next to impossible to stay organized.
So, take time each day to do something you enjoy. If you start to feel overwhelmed by your work, take a few minutes to pause and practice mindfulness.
Being mindful is simply the practice of focusing on the present moment, as well as your breathing. You can do it right from your desk. Take a few deep breaths in and out, and be aware of the present, and nothing else. Other thoughts will come into your head, of course. But, let them pass by like clouds, not holding on to anything. You might be surprised how effective a few minutes of mindfulness can be to help you feel more centered.
Additionally, try make plans at least once a week to spend time with the important people in your life. Work will always be there, but devoting all of your time to it can be dangerous and will often lead to performance issues.
If you’re getting into the gig economy for the first time and you want to become a successful freelancer, keep these tips in mind. They will help to keep you organized and make it easier to stay on track with your clients. When you’re able to do that, you can get more quality work done, earn more referrals, and make a comfortable living for yourself as your own boss and your own brand.